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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
News Item

December 15, 2017 - A Message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

December 18, 2017

I want to begin this week with some exciting news from Lanigan Central High School. Keely-Shay Maki, a grade 12 student, was recently recognized with a significant award. Out of approximately 400 students competing for the title last fall and this past November, Keely-Shay was successful in correctly answering 295 of 300 questions in the final round. This won her the title of "Canada's Most Informed Student" and a $1500 scholarship. We are extremely proud of our students in Horizon and it is great to see one of them being recognized in a national competition such as this one. More information on this impressive student success story can be found on the Horizon website. Congratulations, Keely-Shay!

This past Tuesday, I took part in a teleconference with the Provincial Attendance Working Group. Our meeting was an opportunity to discuss a recent conversation at the Provincial Leadership Team (PLT) level regarding attendance, to review attendance research, and to develop a timeline for the committee's work. Our committee, comprised of Directors of Education and members of the Deputy Minister's office, focused our discussion on our current state as well as the necessary steps required to ensure that attendance improves for students in Saskatchewan. Within Horizon School Division, we are experiencing challenges that, just like the province, need to be overcome. At the system level, the Director's Leadership Team (DLT) developed a "Graduation Rates A3", a dedicated plan for improving graduation numbers. As the plan was developed, there was recognition that perhaps one of the issues is that some of our children do not see the relevance in pursuing education through to the 12th grade. It was also noted that other students may find aspects of their education so challenging that it is easier to avoid school altogether rather than commit to working through their difficulties. Still others may be disengaged because of a whole host of issues that could include fractured relationships with peers or adults in their lives and societal calamities that impact their lives in a myriad of ways. Of course, we know the impact of excellent teaching on any student and we are also aware of the impact of strong family dynamics on the success of children. Finding a magic formula will look different for each one of our youth, but one thing is certain in Horizon, we will never give up on our ultimate goal of seeing 100% of our students succeed.

On Tuesday evening, I joined a meeting of the Joint Operations Committee (JOC) to address issues that relate to the operation of Humboldt Collegiate Institute (HCI). The committee is made-up of trustees, Linda Mattock and Dave Holinaty, as well as senior leaders from Horizon and trustees and senior leaders from Greater Saskatoon Catholic. We continued our discussions around the approval of the JOC financial statements, the developing greenspace for HCI, and the in-city bussing developed by Horizon for both school division families. The Board of Education of Horizon has requested that my office review the JOC agreement with GSCS administration and I look forward to beginning these important conversations.

We began our day on Wednesday morning with a meeting to finalize the agenda for the regular Board meeting on December 20. Board Chair, Jim Hack, joined the meeting via phone, while Vice Chair, Wil Lengyel, Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN, Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO, Marilyn Flaman, and Superintendent of Operational Services/COO, Justin Arendt joined me in our central office boardroom.

Following our agenda meeting, the Board's Audit Committee met at central office to discuss our financial report for the first quarter. The committee, made-up of Trustees, Paul Crow-Buffalo, David Holinaty, Mark Fedak, and Jolene Koopman, began their meeting by establishing a chair. Jolene was nominated and accepted the role, taking over from Dave who did a commendable job this past year. I would like to thank our Finance Services team, including Marilyn Flaman and Assistant Superintendent of Finance Services, Jeff Swanson, for supporting me in the delivery of a detailed, comprehensive report for the committee's review.

I took in the Audit Committee meeting via teleconference after 9:30am as I was on the road to Foam Lake Composite School to take part in the "Literacy Blast" event for both the high school and Foam Lake Elementary. As part of this event, I had the pleasure of being a guest reader for all the students, reading from one of my favourite novels, The Hobbit. I want to thank principals Cheryl Farrell and Nevin Halyk for the invitation to be part of the event and to share my passion for reading with our students. The novel is full of inspirational quotes and one of my favorite by J.R.R. Tolkien from the book indicates, "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world".

Also on Wednesday, Horizon's Facility Services team held their winter maintenance meeting at central office. If you have passed through Humboldt in the past few weeks, you will have seen that a significant amount of digging has occurred on the site of our future administration facility. I know all of Horizon is eagerly anticipating the completed project that will significantly change a number of our functions, making us more efficient in our work. As I have stated before, our central office is housed in both the Olymel building and the Quonset, located on our land at the construction site. With their exciting expansion and resulting need for their entire building, Olymel has required us to look for a new central office location. The benefit of our office is that it will finally consolidate the central office staff and the Board into one structure. It is anticipated the project will be completed prior to the end of 2018, an exciting prospect to be certain.

On Thursday, central office staff, volunteers and Trustees gathered at central office to assemble Horizon's Christmas Hampers for the fourth consecutive year. This is such a fantastic project and I am extremely proud of our entire Horizon family for pulling together to provide holiday cheer to those in need. This year alone, we will be supporting 307 children and 114 families with Christmas Hampers and, although it's hard to fathom that nearly 5% of our children are in such need, I am also so very humbled by the generosity of staff and community in ensuring the resources were in place to meet the needs. I want to thank our assembly team, including our main organizers, Marni Sogge, Kim Loose, and Nicole Fitzpatrick. Every year, they somehow create a seamless process that includes an assembly procedure that is simple to navigate. Along with the majority of our central office team, they individually wrapped gifts and necessity items that were placed in baskets and will go out this week to families. Our Board has provided outstanding support for this wonderful endeavor and our principals and school staff should also be commended for their work in identifying our families. This upcoming week, the baskets will be dropped off at schools for delivery to the homes and, having had the chance to witness the impact the hampers have on families, it truly is what the Christmas season is all about.

For lunch on Thursday, I travelled to Watrous Elementary School where I joined school staff and members of our Board of Education, including Mark Fedak and Jolene Koopman, for the school's Celebration Day Lunch. Jennifer Lemky, trustee for Watrous, sent along her sentiments for not being able to attend. Jenn remains in hospital but is anticipating getting out early this upcoming week and I know each of us in Horizon are thankful for that. At our Celebration Day, we draw 4 schools to win a staff lunch courtesy of the Board and this year, Watrous Elementary was one of our winners. The lunches provide an opportunity trustees to get to the schools, meet with staff, and share in conversation, while treating them to lunch. Supervision is also provided so that school staff can enjoy their lunch while our Trustees and senior leadership staff keep an eye on students. It was a tremendous afternoon and I want to thank Principal Pat Borsa and his staff for their hospitality.

On Thursday afternoon, I travelled to Wynyard Elementary School, along with Superintendent of Student Services, Darrell Paproski and Superintendent of Learning Services, Crandall Hrynkiw for the last of our Learning Improvement Plan (LIP) review meetings of 2017. This round of reviews has been very enlightening and inspiring, as we witness the passion and dedication of our staff members in schools across our system. The work being done to create and follow these important planning documents has and will continue to improve the conditions for our students. I want to thank all principals and staffs for their dedication to the learning of their students and to their own professional learning.

On Friday morning, I began my day with a personnel meeting in Saskatoon before making my way to Danceland at Manitou Beach to join in the Watrous Elementary Christmas Dance. I always appreciate the invitations to be involved in the events in which schools are engaging their students and enjoy the chance to spend time with our students and staff. With one week remaining before the Christmas break, I look forward to sharing in a few more of these opportunities.

Have a great week, everyone.

- Kevin

Kevin C. Garinger, B.Ed, M.A.Ed
Director of Education/CEO
Horizon School Division No. 205